Das had wound up leaving the apartment in the middle of the night. Turns out he thought he could have postponed his meeting with Miguel but with the endless ticks reverberating in his ears, even though his unchanged pillow covering them firmly, and the creaks of the rutting bed upon his every restless turn, he just couldn wait until morning.
Standing outside his taco van, Miguel smirked as Das neared him through the benighted. He stood there, passing thumb and index along his thin mustache; couldn grow hair to save his thirty-year-old life. He expected many visitors to come seeking him but Das proved the most impatient.
”Ive got Tinga Tacos, Tacos de barbacoa, Tacos de pescados, ” he turned around, ”anything thing youd— ”
Das grabbed at his shirt and slammed his back into the taco van behind him. ”Im not here for your tacos, Miguel! ”
”Damn, the fire in this one, ” Miguel smirked, ”sheesh! ”
”You know why Im here, ” Das said.
Miguel frowned. ”Well, if it ain some midnight tacos, I could only assume its some dope, ” he fished a cigar from his shirt pocket, ”here, my last one. ”
Das slapped the cigar out of his hand.
”Cholo, that was my last one! ”
Das pulled up his sleeve and showed his wrist to Miguel. ”Tell me, what is this? ”
Miguel grew a nuance on his face that soon became a smirk.
”Well? ” Das raised his brows.
e seventeen, Das? ” Miguel asked. ”You know if I wasn told that, Id easily pass you off as my age. ”
”Tell me what I wanna know, Miguel, ” Das said.
” he leaned in.
e lookin at right now is what still warrants you as an indebted slave to Godfather. You didn think hed just let you all go without being sure youd return, did he? ”
But Das knew he would have returned. He would have returned unbidden. He would have returned even after repaying his debt. For his master. For his allegiance. For the love of thievery.
”You still haven answered my question, Miguel. ”
”Yknow, I thought patience was something Godfather had forced us to master,
” Miguel scoffed.
”You ain got none and yet they
e boasting about your youthful graduation. Another none-thing got going for ya is time to waste. Nope, you ain got that either. ”
”The number is going down, Miguel, ” Das frowned, ” just tell me what it is. ”
”The Death Clock, ” Miguel said. Serious. Stern. Not a sliver of wit to his tone.
Das slowly averted his eyes, looking down at his wrist again. ”The Death … Clock? ” He echoed.
”Yes, ” Miguel said. ”The number of days youve got left to live. ”
Das eyes gaped. The number of days to live? That couldn be. His Godfather would never do such a thing to him! He cocked his head and parted his lips as he gawked thoughtfully at Miguel. Was a Death Counter really possible? Straight out of a sci-fi movie; something Das didn know about because it was not like Godfather was an uncaring man whod let him waste time on such triviality.
Godfather was a good man—a good man whod only done what was best for him and his siblings. Godfather would never kill them … right?
”Is this a joke? ” Das asked.
”Are you judging Godfathers power, Das? ” Miguel narrowed his eyes. ”I always painted you as his suck-up. ”
”No, Im not judging him, ” Das said, ”its just that I doubt hed ever do something like— ”
”Theres a lot o things you don know about Godfather, Das. ” Miguel snickered. ”You don even know his name. ”
Das shifted on his feet. He knew everything about Godfather; no, he knew … enough. He knew that Godfather had saved his life, raised him, taught, and given him his strongest of strengths. He knew that he was there to protect them from the harsh, materialistic world. But how could he not know his name?
”What happens after nine days, Miguel? ” Das said, quailing.
”Your head probably explodes, ” Miguel said casually. ”Though, knowing Godfather, it might be something much more excruciating. ”
”How do I disarm it? ”
”Well, ” Miguel placed an index on his chin. ”Youd have to turn in the money youve made. ”
Das snorted, a surge of relief running down his spine like a sensational, massaging hand after Godfathers disciplinary actions. Was this a joke? Turn in the money to a secret island across the seas? He could do it in his sleep.
”Are you serious? ”
”Yes, ” Miguel said, ”the money. The whole one million dollars. ”
”One million! ” Das snapped.
Miguel scoffed. ”Well, duh. This isn supposed to be childs play. ”
”Touche, ” Das said, sighing.
One massive city, two pains in the ears, and one million dollars to make in nine days. Easier said than done but possible, right? Das tried to console himself but the ticking was driving him nuts.
”Hey, you alright, Das? ” Miguel asked the six foot three inches, top-of-the-line-thief crybaby.
”Do … you hear it? ”
”Hear what? ”
”The ticking …. ”
”I don . ”
”Well I do and I think my heads gonna explode. ”
”Want a taco to cheer yourself up? ”
”Save it, ” Das shoved him aside, ”this conversation is over. ”
”Well, more for me. ”
Das sighed. ”If you wanna make sales, ” he said as he nodded off, ”quit smoking in front of the customers. ”
Miguel looked until Das disappeared into the darkness. Then he looked up, mulled, and shrugged before turning to his Taco van.
Das sorrowfully sauntered through the night, shoving a stolen gold chain and a necklace down into his pockets. He planned to go home two hours ago but knew hed get better sleep next to a vagrant than that thing the tenant called an apartment.
If he didn want his head blown to shreds and brains, which he, of course, didn ; he had to think fast because he hadn the time; only nine days to make $930,000 and little gigs and games weren going to fit the bill. He had to set his eyes on the bigger, the better—but the bigger, the better took the biggest chunks of effort.
He was tired and hungry. He felt the urge to really sleep beside a vagrant as he walked past one but he instead stole the mans slippers, which he needed not—like that was going to give him anything more than contaminated hands.
He felt like tacos. Now that he thought of it, turning down Miguel was a mistake. So he wasn one on a clear path, he wasn one fully understanding what was going on, and he wasn one getting any sleep because of the riling ticks. But he was a man being …. Followed.
He took an alley. He heard footsteps over the ticking in his ears. He spun around. No nails in his pocket. Pitch—not metal. Walls to his left and right—not metal. The trashcans. Bingo, he thought as he swooshed his hand to the left.
The trashcan pitched to the left, hitting a figure in the head. The figure slammed into a wall in the alley and collapsed. A delayed, under-breath groan ensued as the afield trashcan cover rattled on the pitch.
”Score, ” Das muttered to himself as he strode over to the fallen figure.
As the figure rose to its feet, Das grasped its jacket and rammed into a wall like he did to Miguel, only harder. Radiance from a light pole littered the figure, revealing his youthful, chiseled, swollen, and familiar face.
”Following me, ” Das snapped. ”Why! ”
The man raised his surrendering hands. ”Wow-wow-wow, I come in peace but after that trashcan stunt … almost pieces. ”
Trashcan stunt? Das thought as a rivulet of blood trickled down from his nostril. Right.
”Do I … know you? ” Das asked, narrowing his eyes and cocking his head slightly.
”Ahhh, yes, ” the man said. ”You do know me. Im your partner. ”
”Stop bullshitting me. ”
The man smirked. ”Fine, Im just the guy who you spared; is all. ”
Das mulled. The man he spared? As a nice guy he made of himself, hed spared hundreds before. Murder was only last resort so this peace-offering stalker had to be more specific before killing became a must. But wait—he remembered. This guy was the one from earlier. The sole survivor of the gang members from whom hed stolen the seventy grand.
Das released the man, sighing. ”You again? Tell me why you were following me. ”
”Ohhh, ” the man scratched his head, ”I, uh, just wanted to see what you were up to besides apartments, stealing, and tacos. ”
Das facepalmed. He was followed all day by this guy of all people? Suppose it were someone dangerous. The shame he felt was immeasurable. He sighed, shook his head, and left the alley. Unfortunately, his stalker pursued; of course, unbidden.
”Wait, Das, ” the man called, chasing him.
”Why, of course, you know my name too, ” Das said as he walked.
”I overheard your conversation with Miguel, ” the man said with just a grain of pomposity; purposely not under the radar.
”Im still a minor. You
e young too but definitely an adult. Tell me the reason why you
e so incessant on me? ”
” the man said,
e, like, the most amazing thing Ive seen all year. You can shoot nails outta your hand and you force trashcans into fighting dirty for you! ”
Das cringed, wiping his nose. ”When you put it that way, you make it sound straight out of a Disney cartoon. ”
”Im Ray by the way, ” the man said, walking beside Das. ”We just walked past my house a minute or two ago. ”
Das first impression of this stalking fanboy of his by the name of Ray? An absolute asshole. Stupid. So stupid and too stupid to be around. Das just couldn find a way to get him off his tail yet and he had a feeling it wasn going to be easy a feat.
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